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DADT Likely To Be Part of Defense Bill


Repealing "don't ask, don't tell" will likely be included as part of next year's Department of Defense authorization bill in both chambers of Congress, Congressman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Wednesday.

"Military issues are always done as part of the overall authorization bill," Frank said, insisting that this has been the strategy for overturning the policy all along. "'Don't ask, don't tell' was always going to be part of the military authorization."

Frank said he has been in direct communication with the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, and other congressional leaders about the strategy for ending the 1993 ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Though some moderate Democrats have recently expressed concern about repealing the policy during a midterm election year, Frank said resolve at the White House has never wavered. "The Administration is totally committed to this and has been from the beginning," he said.

Anecdotally, Frank recalled an incident earlier this year when Defense secretary Robert Gates made a statement to reporters suggesting that repeal was still an open question.

"There was a point where Gates said, 'If we repeal don't ask, don't tell,' and the next day he said, 'When we repeal don't ask, don't tell,'" said Frank. "That's because Rahm called him up. The White House has been consistently committed."

The Defense Department reauthorization bill would be voted on next spring and summer and would take effect October 1, 2010, according to Frank. But he added that discharges could potentially be stopped by executive order before the law goes into effect.

"Once the bill is passed, even if it hasn't yet taken effect at that point, the president could justify a stop-loss order because it would no longer be the law -- it's just a matter of time," Frank explained.

A White House spokesperson was less forthcoming about the strategy for repeal, saying only, "The Administration is working with Congress to achieve a legislative repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

But Frank's remarks provide the first window into White House thinking on timing and strategy. President Barack Obama pledged to repeal the policy during a speech last month to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT lobby group, but the White House has provided no specifics indicating when and how that might happen.

Senate leadership also declined to get as detailed as Congressman Frank in terms of a path for overturning the policy.

"We are continuing to discuss legislative strategy with the White House and other members of the Senate," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

A spokesperson for Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the senator had not made final decisions about the best vehicle for repealing the gay ban.

The standalone repeal bill in the House is being carried by Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and has 183 cosponsors. A Democratic aide said the bill has another dozen or so members who have made verbal commitments to vote for it, leaving it less than 20 votes shy of the 218 required for passage.

A repeal bill has not been introduced in the Senate, but Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, is in discussions with the White House about potentially being the lead sponsor of the legislation. Several sources have said that Senator Lieberman is still considering whether to take the bill.

But given the strategy, Representative Frank said "it would make no sense" to introduce a repeal bill in the Senate.

"What will happen is people will waste their time trying to get cosponsors of that bill from people who will vote for us anyway," he said.

Frank added that getting 60 votes in the Senate for repeal was still "no slam dunk."

But he "fully expects" that repeal language will be included in the bills when they are reported out of their respective Armed Services Committees next year.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was originally enacted in 1993 as part of the Defense Department authorization bill.

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